A Food Writer Abroad
Part 2: Sometimes it just hurts to be away.
Anatomy of a meal: The skate lurks somewhere beneath the tomatoes, connected to a fine piece of cartilage.
Photo by Joseph Hayes
On my tour of the UK last month, I was delighted by superb dinners, breakfasts and afternoon teas found just about anywhere. I also, occasionally, let my enthusiasm rule my critical judgment. And boy, was I sorry.
As I said last week, I am a fan of British and Scottish cuisine and the people who create it—must be the accents—but there are as many mediocre celebrated chefs in the UK as there are in America. I’ve spent hours talking to amazing talents such as Scottish icon Martin Wishart and the great Mary Contini, and I adore Tony Singh, an inventive chef who proudly reflects his Leith and Sikh heritages by donning both turban and kilt.
But then you get someone like David Ramsden, long celebrated for several restaurants in Edinburgh, who wears the role of dissolute rock n’ roll chef like an even more jaded Tony Bourdain. Dinner at his latest, The Dogs, left my very proper English dining companion aghast at his loutish attitude (I thought he was funny, being slightly loutish myself), but I was dismayed by the interestingly flavored, artistically presented, and practically inedible meal he served. Aged fennel cooked to cardboard consistency and a piece of skate that was 90 percent cartilage: it was as if he was daring the diner (or perhaps specifically me) to complain.
There are so many thrilling choices within minutes of this restaurant that I’m confounded by food like this and the praise it gets from some reviewers. But I’m sure you’ve felt the same way about reviews right in your own back yard. Its just harder when you fall for a celebrity reputation and travel 4,000 miles to learn otherwise.
* Never order an Americano coffee in England. I am convinced they save the worst grind for obvious Yanks. Flat white is a better choice.
* Once, you could grab a nice Cornish pasty at a British rail station, but quality has dropped so precipitously that you’re better off using the hand pie to weigh down your newspaper. Avoid the chains and thoroughly unpleasant M&S sandwiches.
However, you should try …
* Searcy’s restaurant at London’s St. Pancras Station.
* KIOSK for pork belly sandwiches, or a deluxe sit-down meal at Plum + Spilt Milk in the Great Northern Hotel. Both are at King’s Cross Station.
* Grabbing a pint before hopping the rails in Yorkshire at The Sheffield Tap.
* The station restaurant and pub called Platform 1864 in the Scottish Highlands town of Tain, run by chef Graham Rooney.
- Orlando magazine Dining Hall of Fame inductee Bernard Carmouche and his partner at Two Chefs Seafood, Larry Sinibaldi, have opened Muddy Waters, a New Orleans-themed restaurant, in Thornton Park. Watch for an upcoming review.
- Local food delivery pioneers Farm & Haus joins Kevin Fonzo’s Edible Education Experience to present a garden-to-table Chef’s Night benefit on June 13 at the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden in College Park. Click here for details.